Mental Health Awareness Week: ‘Going to the gym helped me focus more’

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, Ben Parfitt from Hereford College shared this story about one of his students who successfully battled depression through physical activity.

He said: “Adria was in her final year and a very bright student. She had lots of things going on a home and was struggling massively with anxiety and depression. She was on depression meds for a while to get her through the days, but she was really determined to get off them so she didn’t have to keep depending on them.

“She came to me as she heard that exercise was a good way of relaxing and battling depression and it just so happened that we were running an offer on gym sessions.

“Most students just finish their 10 sessions in the last week of a 6 week term. However, Adria completed hers within two weeks. She had been attending every single day and also managed to make a couple of friends in the process.

“She had found that these sessions every lunch time were levelling her out and making her much more relaxed and confident.

“I then made a plea to the college to fund her a gym membership for the rest of the year as she couldn’t afford it, which luckily they granted as it showed how big an asset this was to her.

“We kept in touch throughout the rest of the year as she experimented with removing her meds and eventually going without using them at all, relying solely on exercise as her relief.

“Her exam period came up and she sailed through without much trouble and gained her necessary grades to head off to university.”

Physical exercise had such a positive effect on Adria that she wanted to share her story with others in a similar situation.

She said: “Going to the gym helped me focus more and I ended up going every day. I had no panic attacks, my sleep was more regular and I just felt so much more confident.

“You get so many aches and pains from going to the gym but there’s something about it that makes you feel in control. You’re doing something healthy for yourself and you can feel it afterwards.

“It helped me gain perspective and really grow into myself. My advice would be not to be afraid and to talk to someone like tutors or friends.

“The gym is a good activity to help you feel better. So grab a friend and try it out and hopefully you’ll see the advantages like I did.”